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The Jazz Standards by Ted Gioia

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An inveterate jazz multitasker, Ted Gioia is an accomplished pianist and respected educator but remains best known for his work as a journalist and historian. His The History of Jazz, issued in 1997 and updated last year, is essential to any serious music library, as are his West Coast Jazz and Delta Blues. Now turning his attention to the standards repertoire, Gioia again blends impeccable research with an invitingly conversational style.

Gioia argues that there are between 200 and 300 jazz standards that every player and fan should know, splitting the difference by profiling 252 of them. His principal selection criterion is artistic durability: Whatever its vintage, does the composition’s embracement by jazz practitioners continue to the present day? Each entry is a page or two in length, augmented by a list of notable recordings. Though Gioia’s approach varies little from entry to entry-where, when, why and by whom the tune was written, its take-up by jazz artists and its interpretive evolution, plus a colorful anecdote or two-there is much to savor in his intelligent commentary. Consider, for example, his description of his favorite version of “Secret Love,” which “finds 20-year-old Keith Jarrett making his big league debut as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and deconstructing this Hollywood tune as if it were Finnegans Wake and he was there to defend his dissertation.”

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